Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), last year struggled with the menace of air pollution. Now, as winter months near the level of air pollution in and around the city has dropped to low level posing health concerns. And as Diwali and other festivals, the smoggy season of crackers and is round the corner, pollution watchdogs and the government are leaving no stone unturned to battle it out to prevent the city from turning into a gas chamber like it did in November 2017 after Diwali. The air quality in Delhi-NCR has already started deteriorating since the fall in wind speed and drop in temperature.
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The latest satellite images released by NASA show an increasing trend in stubble burning cases across Punjab and Haryana over the past 15 days. According to news agency PTI, authorities have predicted further deterioration of air quality in the coming days.
So, what is the government doing?
A slew of measures is being adopted by the Central Pollution Control Board to fight air pollution during the winter season when the air quality in the national capital is generally at its worst.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he has taken up the pollution issue with the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana. The burning of stubble in these states accounts for as much as 16 per cent to 30 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution.
"We have been pursuing Central (government), Haryana and Punjab governments, yet no concrete action has been taken. Farmers are again helpless. The entire region including Delhi will again become gas chamber. People will again face difficulty in breathing. This is criminal," Kejriwal tweeted on Saturday.
In September, Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain had written to his counterparts in Haryana and Punjab requesting them to look into the issue of stubble burning in their states.
Speaking to India Today TV, Hussain said that 83 environment marshalls (volunteers) had been appointed this year to keep track of incidents that could increase air pollution.
Apart from the marshalls, strict orders have been given to the traffic police to ensure that no violation takes place.
Also, local police officers have been told that if leaves or other items are found burning and causing pollution, the specific personnel (ASI) will be challaned.
Water sprinklers will also be used before any manual cleaning. We are on an agenda to plant 35 lakh trees.
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What the government did in 2017:
The odd-even policy made a comeback for 5 days starting from November 13. The policy was first introduced in January 2016 where as per the rule, between 8 am and 8 pm private, non-commercial vehicles are allowed out on the roads on alternate days – odd days if the vehicle’s license plate ends in an odd number, and even days if it ends in an even number.
Parking charges were enhanced four times to deter people from using private vehicles.
Entry of trucks into the city, except those carrying essential items, were banned.
The National Green Tribunal restricted construction and demolition activities.
There was a ban on the burning of garbage waste.
The Metro announced more trips, number of public transport buses were increased.
The Badarpur thermal plant was closed down temporarily.